If criminal convictions were not enough, add $1 million in civil penalties to the list of reasons Maryland politicos may think twice about ordering another election-night robo-call that could be viewed as trying to suppress voter turnout. A federal judge on Tuesday sided with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and ordered that a consultant to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) should pay for each of 112,000 automated phone calls that failed to identify Ehrlich’s campaign as the one that paid for the messages. The calls were placed to homes of tens of thousands of African American Democrats in Prince George’s County and Baltimore on Election Day 2010. They told listeners to “relax” and to not worry about going to the polls, because the incumbent, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and President Obama had already been “successful” in the day’s voting.
The Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor successfully pursued criminal charges against Ehrlich campaign manager Paul E. Schurick, who ordered the calls, and campaign consultant Julius Henson, who crafted the message and arranged the calls. Gansler (D), however, sought civil penalties against the latter. He argued that a hefty fine against Henson might be the most effective deterrent against similar attempts to influence voter turnout.